When the market demands products be made better or faster, manufacturers must respond in kind. For manufacturers in many industries, robots are essential to meeting these ever-changing customer needs. Equally important, however, are tool changers, which optimize the robots’ flexibility and productivity.

About five years ago, two Sigma tool changers enabled AZ Automotive Corp. (now Sodecia North America Inc.) to use one robot, rather than two, in a workcell to weld metal trim and framing to a wheelhouse for Jeep vehicles. Two robots were initially required because a single robot was not able to reach all of the required weld locations.

In the reconfigured workcell, a Sigma tool changer (from Applied Robotics) is mounted to each side of the robot arm. This enables the robot to pick up a weld gun from whichever side is closest to the weld point, easily reach all specified weld points and maintain short cycle times.

Before welding begins, a worker positions the trim, framing and wheelhouse on the left station of a two-station dial table, which then presents the components to the robot. While welding is being performed in the left station, the worker positions another set of components on the right station. When welding is complete, the worker unloads the finished wheelhouse and the table rotates to present the right-station set of components to be welded. During table rotation, the robot uncouples the left-side weld gun and places it in its support fixture before coupling the right-side gun to position it to weld the next assembly. The worker then positions components on the empty station.

Another manufacturer benefitting from the Sigma tool changer is CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, S.A) USA Inc., which designs, builds, supplies and maintains equipment and components for rail systems throughout the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the company is well known for quickly completing projects. It is currently under contract to build intercity rail rolling stock for Amtrak, light rail transit equipment for the city of Houston, and streetcars for both Cincinnati and Kansas City, MO. CAF’s international customers include Birmingham Metro Trams (UK), and rail operators in Saudi Arabia (Saudi Railway Co.), Latvia and Belgium (Brussels Metro).

Over the past decade or so, the company has continually expanded its Elmira Heights, NY, manufacturing facility and increased its assembly activities. The building spans across 38 acres, has more than 400,000 square feet of covered space and employs more than 600 people involved in engineering, production, testing and human resources.

Many robots are used there to handle large parts for train cars and perform welding. A few years ago, plant
managers turned to Applied Robotics in search of a durable and reliable tool changer that would increase the robots’ versatility to handle parts of all sizes. Applied’s engineers recommended the Sigma 5 tool changer, which features a six-sided design and a payload capacity of 500 kilograms.

Equally important, the engineers provided CAF with custom-built modules made of stainless steel that automatically hold down frame components as they are resistance welded. The modules maximize equipment uptime and manufacturing production.

For more information on tool changers, call 518-384-1000 or visit www.appliedrobotics.com.